Monday, October 19, 2015

Our Wee Trip to the UK, Chapter 2

Once Denis had unloaded everything and I had everything put away-- groceries and all-- it didn't take us long to collapse into our comfy bed-- like 6:30 PM! With jet lag, train lag, and drive lag, both of us slept hard and fast... and woke up ready to go at 3 AM. 

===Sunday, 20 September===

Neither of us were in the mood to lie in bed and blink at the ceiling, so we got up and had breakfast. If we'd gotten sleepy we both intended to go back to bed, but we never did. Since we intended to stay in and around the bothy, Denis was looking forward to watching World Cup Rugby, and I was looking forward to exploring.

Of course, there wasn't a single solitary thing to look at or to explore! Just get a load of the beach we were steps away from! (Oh, and if you want to see any of the photos in this post in their original sizes, all you have to do is left click on one of them and a new window will open automatically.)

Balnakeil Beach 1

Balnakeil Beach 2

Balnakeil Beach 3

Now... I want to point out something in this third photo, and you're going to have to see the larger version. See the land to the left in the photo and how it seems to taper off the closer it gets to the sea?  Okay... look just a bit to the right of that and you'll see a tiny bump of an island. Got it? Good. Because little did Denis and I know, but that little hunk of rock would figure into our week's experiences at the bothy.

I had tired of exploring for a bit, and late morning saw me sitting at the kitchen table, knitting and watching the New Zealand rugby team performing their traditional haka. I had just had the thought that I'd never seen so many ugly human ears in my life (rugby fans out there will understand), when I jumped. Something furry had just gone around the frame of one of the windows overlooking the beach. What in the world?

There it was again, going around the frame of the other window, and a minute later... again... around the frame of the window on the other side of the room. Something furry was checking us out, and it didn't take me long to confirm my suspicions. We had a resident Scottish pine marten that was very curious about us!  

This was the little furry face that had been peering in at us. Unfortunately the cute little devil (a member of the weasel family that has long fought extinction in Scotland) had to be well acquainted with cameras because the only shot I could get of it all week was its tail.

I have a tendency not to sleep well in strange beds. They tend to do funny things to my back, so when we're traveling, I'm up bright and early, and during our week at the bothy, it was a treat. I'd get up, put on the kettle, and raise the blinds to get my first look at the beach and to say hello to the furry face that came to the window every morning.

Pine martens weren't the only wildlife in the area. Denis and I had both noticed large burrows in the sand dunes around the bothy, and it wasn't long until I added Scottish hare watching to my list of things to enjoy.

One of the many large hares.
One of the hares liked to clean the entrances to several burrows first thing in the morning. Others liked to play and chase each other around. I got in the habit of taking a good look outside before I opened the door because I never knew what would be taking flight. 

The hare in the photo to the right looks as though it narrowly escaped being something's dinner, with all that scarring on its hindquarters.

Most of the week was rainy and a bit chilly, which didn't do my poor old knees a speck of good, but you take what you're dealt. 

Barred Straw Moth
Evidently one day it was a bit too rainy, windy, and chilly for this Barred Straw Moth because it insisted on coming inside with us. I didn't argue, and after warming up and drying off for an hour or so, it went back outside the next time I opened the door.

Oh! Before I forget two things-- (1) Yes, I have reference books here at Casa Kittling so I can identify British flora and fauna, and (2) in case any of you are wondering, there will be a total of six chapters in my travelogue. That way you'll be able to tell if you've missed any.

The afternoon was gorgeous and so sunny that I had to go sit outside to read (and to photograph anything that came within range). This was the first time I saw the starlings' afternoon ritual of flocking together and perching on the chimney pots and ridgeline of Balnakeil House. I'd seen this once before at a lighthouse keeper's house in Washington State. Here in Scotland, it was starlings. In Washington, it was seagulls. It really didn't matter what the species of bird was, seeing that always reminds me of Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds.

Hitchcockian Balnakeil House-- check the ridgeline!

Starlings on the chimneypots

Young ones checking me out

Starlings weren't the only birds at Balnakeil House. I also caught swallows flying around the eaves. The photo isn't the greatest of the birds, but you certainly don't see a roof like that in the U.S.!

The swallows of Balnakeil House

I also narrowly missed sending this snail to oblivion, poor thing!

Trying to escape my size tens!

And it was shortly after taking the snail's photo that I spied a pottery shard, much thicker than today's pottery and crazed with very fine lines in its glaze that showed its age. I brought it home with me, wondering what tales of Balnakeil House and the bothy it could tell me.

Pottery shard resting on some of my knitting.

Although a robin came to visit me several times, I never could get a decent photo of it. One bird that wasn't shy was the Pied Wagtail. These little black and white birds were full of personality, and almost as nosy as the pine marten!

Pied Wagtail

This was the only really sunny day we had the entire week at Balnakeil Beach. With absolutely no light pollution, the sky was filled with trillions of stars that night, but although I checked each and every night-- more than once-- I never did get to check seeing the Northern Lights off my bucket list. They waited until we came back to Phoenix to make a reappearance, blast 'em!

I took advantage of the sun that day to do some laundry and hang it out on the whirligig to dry. As I sat outside recharging my "solar cells" and baking my knees, the wagtails kept tabs on me, the hares came up to peek at me from around corners and from within their burrows... and that cute little devil of a pine marten ran back and forth along the top of that dry-stack stone wall, knowing it was moving too fast for a photo. It didn't matter. I was in love with the wildlife of Balnakeil Beach!



  1. Now I must hear the story of the rock, Cathy! In the meantime, I love it that you had so many animal visitors during your trip. How fun! And the setting really does look peaceful and beautiful.

    1. It's the perfect place to relax-- and the tale of the rock will be in the next chapter!

  2. Ah, those wonderful days when you have absolutely no responsibilities to anyone, and absolutely nowhere you have to be. Sounds like it was wonderful, apart from the sore knees and the strange bed.

    1. The strange bed doesn't even bother me anymore. I'm usually someplace where I don't want to miss anything, so less sleep is good!

      What's not so good is that we're going through a rainy spell here and my knees aren't happy. And the front door is so swollen that I almost can't get it open. Sheesh!

  3. And what enchanting creatures there are to see! I've have loved to see that pine marten with its orangish ruff and its cute face. And those hares, how interesting about cleaning the burrow entrances and playing around.

    And the birds are always fun to see.

    What a great vacation.


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